Placer County on Tuesday became the latest jurisdiction in the Sacramento region to restrict electronic cigarettes.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to outlaw the use of electronic cigarettes, also known as “vaping,” within public buildings and inside county-owned vehicles. The ordinance will take effect in late April.
In recent years, vaping has gained a strong following among youths and has been touted by supporters as a safe alternative to traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes. But public health officials have said the chemicals contained in e-cigarettes are anything but safe.
The Placer County measure passed with little fanfare Tuesday morning, with no one speaking about the issue during public comment.
Kirk Uhler, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, called it a logical extension of trying to create a comfortable work environment for employees.
“We had heard enough feedback from folks about not having that activity in the workplace,” Uhler said.
It is unclear how popular e-cigarettes were among county employees. Michael Romero, a program supervisor in Placer’s Public Health division, said there was “anecdotal evidence” that vaping was occurring in county facilities, but he could not quantify the number of workers affected.
Romero said the measure will protect county employees and the public until more is known about the effects of e-cigarette vapors.
E-cigarettes operate much like traditional cigarettes. Instead of tobacco, they are filled with a type of flavored juice that is heated through the battery-powered device. Nicotine also can be added if desired. Users then inhale the vaporized liquid.
According to the California Department of Public Health, electronic cigarettes contain at least 10 chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. In a January report about vaping, the Public Health department said, “there is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers successfully quit traditional cigarettes.”
Robert Beadle, a vaping consultant for several smoke shops in Placer County, was supportive of the county’s decision but emphasized there isn’t yet any proof that vaping is harmful.
“If you weigh it out between smoking and vaping,” he said, “vaping will win every single time.”
Vaping, for example, doesn’t produce a combustible flame, nor is there the trash of cigarette butts, Beadle said.
However, momentum has been building against the industry.
In January, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, proposed legislation that would ban vaping in bars, restaurants, hospitals and other workplaces. Days later, California’s top health officials launched a campaign to educate the public about the dangers of vaping.
Neither Sacramento County nor the city of Sacramento has vaping bans on the book.
But Sacramento County spokeswoman Chris Andis said there have been informal conversations about pursuing such an ordinance.
More than 150 jurisdictions in California have passed legislation regulating e-cigarettes, according to the American Lung Association, including the cities of Davis, Folsom, Rancho Cordova and Woodland.
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.